About Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your Own, Own Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression.

Unintended consequences.

This is a critical concept to wrap your mind around if you are going to engage conventional medicine and its drugs, surgeries, and procedures. In my efforts to warn women about the ills of a surgical birth, I have tried to shine a light on the lesser known risks of C-section.

I’m not talking about organ damage, adhesions, hemorrhage, embolism, hysterectomy, wound dehiscence, early infant separation, higher risk of respiratory problems for baby, and an exponentially increased risk of placenta accreta, a potentially lethal complication of surgical birth, contributing to a 3.6 fold increase in maternal death after cesarean relative to vaginal birth.

What I am talking about is the continuation of our vital species and the retention of a woman’s primal power.

Ok, so your baby is alive and you are sore and weak but hobbling on the battlefield, this is survival of the species, isn’t it?

We Are Our Bugs

Unfortunately, we have had to go back to the drawing board to begin to understand, question, and reexamine, what we even are as a species since learning about the role of the microbiome in our “human" existence. We have had to admit that germs are not, cannot be, the enemy, and that we are made more of them than us. We have begun to desperately search for how to support and nurture these symbiotic organisms. How do we play nice with those we’ve been bleaching, Purelling, and antibioticing into oblivion for decades?

If we don't start, and start soon, then we might be looking at the forced devolution of our species. According to Dr. Stuart Fischbein, homebirthing obstetrician, in one generation, we have gone from birthing 99% of babies at home in 1920 to 99% of babies born in the hospital by 1950, and a C-section rate that has increased by 50% since 1996 with no improvement in neonatal mortality.

What's does this have to do with the microbiome? We know that babies born surgically are preferentially colonized by non-maternal skin flora, and that those who are formula fed have differences in their gut flora secondary to that fact that formula cannot replicate the 200+ special sugars (oligosaccharides) in breast milk, the immune factors, nor the bacteria that is literally transferred from the mother's gut. Surgical birth can change the game - the whole game - for that brand new human.

Does Breastfeeding Fix C-Section Damage?

Once the birth is over, the microbial damage is done, right? Surgical birth can't have an impact on the bacterial composition of breastmilk, right? How could it?

Cabrera-Rubio et al explore this in an elegant study titled Impact of mode of delivery on the milk microbiota composition of healthy women. They analyzed the milk of 10 Spanish women who had surgical and vaginal births (40% surgical), one month postpartum and found the following:

  • Higher bacterial diversity in vaginal delivery samples
  • More frequent detection of Bifidobacterium in vaginal births and higher levels of Staphylococcus in C-section

So, basically babies who don't traverse the vaginal canal are inheriting unnatural bacteria and then breastmilk is continuing to put them at a disadvantage which might contribute to their documented future risk of allergic, autoimmune, psychiatric, and metabolic conditions as children and adults.

Probiotic Band-Aid?

The authors are unambiguous, stating:

"Breast milk is the most relevant postnatal element for the metabolic and immunological programming of the infant's health."

Note they do not express concern about the potential for breastfeeding to interfere with vaccination, nor do they cite vaccination as the most relevant postnatal element for immunity. While they are clear about the role of breastmilk, they also discuss a literature that supports the ability of pre and probiotics to pass from mother to baby. While I have cautious enthusiasm about probiotics, a Bifido probiotic seems like a no brainer option for post-surgical mothers.

Until we fully appreciate the relevance of the natural order, we cannot engage in a true informed consent about practices that deviate from this evolutionarily-divined process. Women are being led culturally and societally down a bread-crumbed path to the witch's gingerbread house.

Knowledge is power, but I also believe mindful recovery is possible.

Mother nature is forgiving that way.

'C-Section: What We Are Learning?' Featured Image Source: J.K. Califf